Ronni Gordon is  a cancer survivor and long-time journalist who has written about her journey, about health and fitness, and about how she and others have prevailed in difficult situations. She brings to her writing a mix of personal experience with knowledge about the health-care system and how cancer patients can navigate it. A graduate of Vassar College with a master's degree in journalism from Boston University, she is a freelance writer who worked in daily newspapers for more than 30 years. She has been published in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Dana FarberCancer Institute magazine, and Cancer Today magazine. She lives in Western Massachusetts with her dog, Maddie, short for Madison (Avenue) in honor of her hometown, New York, and is mother of three grown children, Ben, Joe, and Katie

Ronni Gordon

Time Lost Can Be Time Gained

Tuesday, 07 Jan 2014 04:38 PM

By Ronni Gordon

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Sometimes, when I refer to the years of my cancer treatment and recovery, I talk about “lost time.”
 
But is there such a thing as lost time? Or is it time gained?
 
You could say that there is when we change the clocks in the fall and spring. I could definitely say I lost time when in a coma for four days after my last bone marrow transplant.
 
Otherwise, nothing else comes to mind.
 
I’m thinking about this because sometimes as cancer survivors we might feel that we “lost” time while hospitalized or otherwise incapacitated during treatment. For example, I find myself regretfully saying that I lost time when I could have been building my career as a journalist. The gaps are huge for people like me who have received bone marrow transplants — after which they are required to stay out of work for a year.
 
I had four bone marrow transplants, equaling four years out of circulation, plus even more recovery time, because you don’t just pop back to normal when the calendar says your year is up.
 
Your social life presents another layer of perceived “lost” time if you are single, divorced, or widowed and might have spent that time looking for love.
 
It takes a while for your hair to grow back to the point that it looks normal. Men might have it easier because baldness is OK on them. But what bald woman (or one with duck fuzz on her head) is going to feel comfortable entering the dating scene?
 
Having been divorced for some 10 years when I got leukemia at age 48, I have often thought of the “lost” years when I could have been dating and of how I was that much older (and more weary) when I got back into it.
 
But I catch myself when I tell people that I lost time.
 
I think of the caregivers who became friends and of relationships deepened, of gifts thoughtfully chosen and of the friends who came from far away to visit me in the hospital. In some ways it was gained time — time that kind of stood still, making space to read a long book that I could never have cracked open during my life as a busy divorced mother of three with a full-time job as a newspaper reporter.
 
If you look at your own experience this way, you’ll find that you didn’t lose the time after all.

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